National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan indirectly addressed the covert Israeli attack on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility in an interview on Wednesday night. The Natanz incident took place earlier this month and was a clear attempt to sabotage indirect talks between the US and Iran that aim to revive the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA.
When asked if he would prefer that Iran’s nuclear sites not come under attack, Sullivan said, “We certainly believe that there are certain kinds of activities that are unhelpful to diplomacy.” Sullivan also said the US and Israel have a policy of “no surprises,” which suggests Washington could have had foreknowledge of the Natanz attack.
“At the same time, we believe, profoundly and passionately, in making sure that we and Israel have a policy of no surprises, that we are communicating with one another on a going forward basis, so that we have a better understanding … on what the other side intends to do with respect to a whole range of security issues in the region,” he said.
US officials have refused to condemn the dangerous attack that caused an explosion at the nuclear facility but have been sure to denounce Iran’s reaction to the incident. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Iran’s decision to enrich some uranium at 60 percent was “provocative,” without mentioning why Tehran took the step.
Sullivan met with his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben-Shabbat in Washington on Tuesday. The two officials have been holding strategic talks on Iran and the JCPOA. Sullivan said the Israelis had expressed their opposition to a revival of the agreement.
“Israel has a point of view on the Iran nuclear deal. The current government in Israel has communicated that view to us, they have deep concerns about it, and we’ve had intensive dialogue,” he said.
Discussing the indirect negotiations with Iran, Sullivan said there’s still a long way to go. “There is still a fair distance to travel, and that is chiefly on the question of the type of sanctions relief that will be offered from our side, and the type of nuclear restraints that will be imposed on their side,” he said.
Iranian officials have been clear that they are willing to return to the nuclear limits set by the JCPOA if the US lifts the sanctions it reimposed since the Trump administration withdrew from the agreement in 2018. But the Biden administration refuses to lift all Trump-era sanctions, complicating the progress and dragging out the talks.